A dreamy dinner destination for Mexican and Peruvian flavors premieres at the Wharf’s months-old Pendry hotel this week. Starting Friday, February 3, the hotel’s chic second-floor restaurant Flora Flora adds nighttime service to its now all-day repertoire.
The fashionably late menu means all three of Pendry’s dining establishments now offer dinner (655 Water Street SW). Swanky rooftop bar Moonraker centers around sushi and Japanese small plates served late into the night, while lobby-level nook Bar Pendry plates upscale bar bites from dusk to midnight.
Flora Flora, an indoor-outdoor restaurant overlooking a South Beach-style pool deck, represents the 131-room hotel’s more casual, family-friendly option with three meals a day and seasonal poolside service. Its daily dinner service (5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.) fits into the hotel’s thesis of making global menus out of Mid-Atlantic ingredients. At Flora Flora, that includes fish from the Chesapeake, produce from Maryland, and mushrooms from Virginia.
The debut dinner menu is spearheaded by chef de cuisine Samuel Santos (formerly at D.C.’s Mission Group, Slipstream, and the Line DC Hotel). Santos, who grew up in Guadalajara, is using his Mexican roots to inform his flavors, with a menu made up of “things that [he] would eat at home or things that remind [him] of Guadalajara,” Santos tells Eater.
The hyper-local menu will make micro changes on a weekly basis, depending on what is in season and what local farmers, seafood, and meat providers can offer.
“I’m at the mercy of the farmers. So if one week we can’t get honeynut squash on the menu, I’ll see what else is available and once we get it, we’ll change the menu,” says Santos.
He sources produce from Maryland’s Karma Farm and bivalves from Orchard Point Oyster Co. Mushrooms come from local forager Tom Mueller, who also provides his finds to area restaurants like Centrolina and Oyster Oyster. Alexandria roaster Swing’s Coffee also makes an appearance in a gorgeous flan finale.
In opening the restaurant’s breakfast and lunch services last fall, Pendry’s executive chef Barry Koslow told Eater that Flora Flora was designed to be about 50-percent “plant-forward,” with a generous amount of gluten-free options.
Nearly the whole dinner menu is gluten-free, with an empanada starter as the one exception. But just a single entree is vegetarian, compared with three out of the six entrees on the lunch menu. The veggie option, mushrooms (truffle, trumpet, maitake) in salsa verde joins an herbaceous half chicken, a duck confit chaufa (fried rice), a quinoa-crusted rockfish, and a New York strip steak featuring chanterelles.
Koginut pumpkin empanadas feature goat feta and salsa verde, and an endive chicory salad is perfumed with a huitlacoche (Mexican truffle) dressing. Santos is especially proud of his grilled oyster starter. The Maryland bivalves are topped with chorizo and a green garlic butter and nestled on a bed of corn.
“When it hits the table you get this bright corn flavor and then you get your sizzling oysters. I’m very excited about that dish,” he says.
Local seafood is also highlighted in the raw with three different preparations: rockfish ceviche in a classic leche de tigre, scallops in a vibrant aguachile, and an ahi tuna causa (cubed tuna atop potatoes, drizzled with sesame mayo).
Classic Latin American sweets are put to work in the dessert menu. There’s a coffee flan with cherry compote and an espresso crunch topping, and a dulce de leche mousse adorned with flowers and candied almonds. A fruity option rears its head in “Lucuma y Chocolate,” featuring ice cream made out of the titular creamy, orange fruit (native to Peru and Chile), crispy chocolate mousse, and chocolate sauce poured table-side.
A trio of tropical pisco sours (mango, prickly pear, and dragonfruit) and sangrias (red, white, and Peruvian made with red wine, pisco and curaçao, pineapple, and lime) headline the cocktail menu, followed by a beer and wine list with a little something for everybody.
Flora Flora’s new dinner service joins a steady stream of culinary options filling out the Wharf’s Phase 2 development. In the past week alone, the waterfront stretch welcomed Latin street food chain Bartaco and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s flashy standalone Hell’s Kitchen.